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EU co-operation and new technology can revolutionize Europe's health care

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10-ways-mobile-is-transforming-health-careThe Committee of the Regions (CoR) has called on the EU to improve co-operation and exploit the potential of new technologies to improve the quality of health care across Europe. A common EU strategy should be launched that significantly increases the sharing of knowledge and information across member states and uses mobile technology (mHealth) as a way to cut costs, improve access and create socially inclusive health-care services of the future.

In an opinion led by Karsten Uno Petersen, the Committee argues that improving the "effectiveness, accessibility and resilience" of health-care services in the EU must start by formally recognizing the role of local governments. The Regional Councillor from the South Denmark Region further argues that the EU must commit to launching a socially inclusive strategy that enables all citizens to access affordable high-quality health services: "Across Europe we face the same uphill struggle: local governments are having to deal with an ever ageing population at a time when cuts to public services are running deep. Nevertheless, health care is a right in Europe and we have to ensure that all citizens are able to access quality care," he said.

The Committee calls for the standardization of health care data across the EU which would allow comparisons to be made. This would enable support to be given to those lagging behind. Significantly improving co-operation and collaboration is also crucial, "We all share the same goal of creating resilient and cost-effective health care services so we need to pool together share knowledge, work across borders and expand information on health. There is a great deal of experience and know-how in Europe, especially local and regional knowledge, which we can all profit from".

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The Committee also supports the review by the European Commission which considers the potential of mHealth - using technology to collect health-care data, provide information and monitor patients – as a way to improve health-care services. In its opinion presented by Martin Andreasson, Councillor of Västra Götaland, the Committee agrees that expanding the sector could bring significant savings: a report by Pricewaterhouse Cooper suggests that by 2017 as much as €99bn could be saved and a further €93 billion added to the EU's GDP. Crucially, it could improve access to services making a difference to the lives of many citizens, "mHealth can save money whilst improving the quality and access of health services for all. It can empower patients, especially elderly people and those with disabilities, to take control back over their own health improving independence in everyday life," Andreasson said in Brussels yesterday (4 December).

Exploiting the opportunities offered by mHealth requires, the Committee argues, a broad EU strategy that ensures the technology is freely available and collaboration improved not only among Member States, but across borders and between local authorities. It must include a set of common standards that fully protects citizens' privacy. Andreasson added: "An EU-wide strategy for mHealth will boost innovation, job creation and the quality of public health care services. The technology, however, must reach all citizens. Protecting personal data is also crucial to ensure public confidence in mHealth is not compromised."

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Committee of the Regions (CoR)

UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals should guide the European Recovery

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European local and regional leaders are calling for the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs) to be put back on the top of the European Union's agenda, asking the EU institutions and member states to ensure their implementation by 2030. In an opinion adopted today by its plenary, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of sustainable development and that SDGs can help move towards a coherent, holistic vision within Next Generation EU. However, a recent CoR study points out a lack of explicit and transparent reference to the UN SDGs in many national recovery and resilience plans.

The ongoing pandemic and its expected economic, social and environmental consequences show a clear urgency to support the "localisation" of the SDGs in order to build back in a fairer way and avoid future health crises. SDGs should help Member States' economies recover and deliver the digital and green transitions on the ground. However, a recent study commissioned by the CoR sounded the alarm about the lack of involvement of regions and cities in national recovery plans, while in many cases clear references to SDGs are missing, reducing the opportunity for a common understanding of the plans.

Ricardo Rio (PT/EPP), rapporteur and Mayor of Braga, said: "The SDGs almost disappeared from the EU narrative: there is no overarching strategy and no effective mainstreaming or coordination of SDGs in the European Commission's internal governance. This is all the more striking as in parallel the commitment of local and regional authorities on SDGs kept increasing. The preliminary results of our OECD-CoR survey clearly show that local and regional authorities are well engaged in a sustainable recovery, based on SDGs. 40% of respondents have been using them before the pandemic and now started to use them to address the recovery, while 44% are planning to do so to recover from COVID-19. This is a big opportunity for all policy-makers to come back stronger from this crisis and I will, together with the OECD, actively advocate for it at EU level."

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The OECD estimates that 65% of the 169 targets of the 17 SDGs cannot be reached without involvement of, or coordination with, local and regional authorities. Moreover, the results of a new CoR-OECD joint survey show that 60% of local and regional governments believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more conviction that the SDGs can help take a more holistic approach for recovery. Therefore, the CoR regrets that the SDGs have progressively lost ground in the EU narrative, with a lower profile in EU policy-making jeopardising their chances of implementation by 2030.

CoR members urge European leaders to be ambitious and consistent in their domestic and foreign policy agendas and to declare with one clear purpose that the EU must be a leader and visible champion in the implementation of the SDGs at all governmental levels. The opinion points out that Sustainable Development Goals should provide a coherent framework for all EU policies and help align the priorities of all funding programmes. Nevertheless, sometimes the link between the UN objectives and main European initiatives like the new industrial strategy appear tenuous. Moreover, it calls on the European Commission to use the next Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy 2022 to formally reintegrate SDGs into the European Semester, better link SDGs and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (the cornerstone of Next Generation EU), and explicitly affirm SDGs as a way for the EU to shape a sustainable recovery.

Local and regional leaders ask the European Commission to renew the SDG multi-stakeholder platform or create another dialogue platform with clout and structured follow-up to foster expertise from all the different stakeholders from public and private institutions regarding the 2030 Agenda and to advise the Commission directly.

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The rapporteur Mr Rio delivered the call to prominent EU policy makers already on Tuesday, when he took the floor at the Brussels Economic Forum 2021, the flagship annual economic event of the European Commission, alongside President Von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Background

The CoR and the OECD jointly carried out a survey between May and Mid-June 2021 on SDGs as a framework for COVID-19 recovery in cities and regions. The survey included 86 responses from municipalities, regions and intermediary entities in 24 EU countries, plus a few other OECD & non-OECD countries. Preliminary findings were presented on Tuesday during the fourth edition of the Cities and Regions for the SDGs roundtable, a two-day online event that focused on the SDGs as a framework for long-term COVID-19 recovery strategies in cities and regions. The document is available here.

The CoR adopted a first opinion on 'Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a basis for a long-term EU strategy for a sustainable Europe by 2030' in 2019 by rapporteur Arnoldas Abramavičius (LT/EPP) Member of Zarasai District Municipal Council.

In November 2020 the European Commission published the staff working document Delivering on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – A comprehensive approach.

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Committee of the Regions (CoR)

Migration: Commission and Committee of the Regions agree a partnership on integration

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The Commission and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) agreed to join forces to develop a new partnership to increase support for the work on integration performed by EU cities and regions. Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and Committee of the Regions President Apostolos Tzitzikostas, have announced the upcoming partnership at the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions.

Commissioner Johansson said: “Integration happens in every village, city and region where migrants live, work, study and take part in activities such as sports. Local and regional authorities deliver essential services in health care, housing and education. They organise sport and cultural activities where newcomers meet people and make friends. I look forward to work more closely with the Committee of the Regions to support cities and regions in their integration efforts”.

President Tzitzikostas said: “Local and regional authorities are in the frontline to provide integration and other services to newly arrived migrants as well as to support their inclusion. While local authorities have put in place many successful and innovative practices for integration and for promoting a positive narrative, they still face challenges in accessing funding, data and knowledge for their integration measures and programs, in particular in towns and rural areas”.

The partnership will build on the well-established co-operation between the Commission and the European Committee of the Regions under the Cities and Regions for Integration initiative, which was launched by the European Committee of the Regions in 2019 to offer a political platform for European mayors and regional leaders to share information and showcase positive examples of integration of migrants and refugees. The statement is available online.

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Committee of the Regions (CoR)

Over 600 politicians join #EURegionsWeek to debate future of Europe and regional policy

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On 7 October, the European Week of Regions and Cities will kick off its 17th edition in Brussels to discuss how cohesion policy can help to make Europe greener, more inclusive and smarter. Opened by a high-level debate on the future of Europe, the Week will hold nearly 400 events including a high-level conference on the transformation of coal regions. On 8-9 October, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) will also hold its #CoRplenary session with its members debating the future of EU cohesion policy with the European Parliament's Regional Development Chair Younous Omarjee, the future long-term EU budget with Commissioner Oettinger, and the ecological and digital transition with Finland's Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen.
17th European Week of Regions and Cities, 7-10 October, #EURegionsWeek

#EURegionsWeek will once again provide a unique opportunity to better understand how regions and cities are using EU funds to improve citizens' daily life and how cohesion funds are making Europe greener, more inclusive and smarter. The annual conference co-organised by the CoR and European Commission is the largest event on regional development in Europe. This year's edition will gather over 9,000 participants including scholars, public administrators, experts and more than 600 local, regional, national and European politicianswill take part in nearly 400 workshops and debates, exhibitions and networking opportunities about the different aspects of cohesion policy.

Highlights

·         7 October, 2.30pm-4.30pm (Watch live) – Opening session: Regions and cities, pillars of the EU's future

Over 100 young elected politicians will attend the opening session and debate the future of European Union together with Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions, Klara Dobrev, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

·         8 October, 9am-10.30am, (Watch live) – REGI/COTER meeting on “The state of play of negotiations on the future Cohesion policy beyond 2020"

Members of the CoR and European Parliament will debate the ongoing negotiations on the EU budget 2021-2027 and the cohesion policy package. In this context, EU regions and cities can play a key role in building a strong cohesion policy for the future, by emphasizing the achievements of the policy over the current programming period.

 

·         9 October, 2.30pm-5.00pm, (Watch live) – Coal Regions in Transition High-Level Conference

Cutting dependence on fossil fuels and supporting coal-producing reigons make the clean energy transition vital in the fight against climate change. As well as national support, EU cohesion policy with its shared management will contribute to supporting the regions making the energy transition. During this event, EU ministers, MEPS, regional politicians and other high-level representatives from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Spain will also share their views on how best to support coal regions make the transition to a carbon-free future.

See the dedicated media programme; You can find a full list of the events on the webpage;
You can also download pictures and the recordings of the event for free.

European Committee of the Regions' Plenary Session
7-9 October, #CoRplenary, (Watch live)

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the EU's assembly of local and regional leaders representing the interests of cities and regions. The CoRs 350 members will gather in Brussels to debate and adopt a range of opinions on EU legislation and political resolutions.

Highlights:

·         8 October 3.15pm – EU regional development policy beyond 2020: Younous Omarjee (FR/GUE/NGL), Chair of the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament (REGI), will join the CoR members to debate the future of regional development in the next financing period beyond 2020.

·         8 October 4.45pm – The future EU budget: By the end of 2019 the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU is expected to present compromise figures for the EU's long-term budget 2021-27. EU regions and cities will share their increasing concerns with the EU Budget Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, and adopt a resolution

·         8 October 6pm – EU Matters for Local and Regional Authorities: CoR members will debate Brexit, insular regions and missing transport links in cross border connections

·         9 October 9.30am – Towards a digital and ecological EU: All EU regions and citizens must reap the benefit from the digital and ecological transitions that are shaping our societies. Local and regional representatives will exchange views with Finland's Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen, on how to tackle the digital divide and ensure cohesion and solidarity for all.

You can find the full agenda, documents and draft opinions online.

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